Somewhat wonky and wordy title aside, The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes looks to be yet another banger in the most underrated major motion picture franchise of all-time.
That’s right. I said it. In a rather surprising move, this film is picking up after the last movie of Matt Reeves’ epic trilogy (well, he directed the last two technically, but still). Unclear how big of a time jump we’re in for, but suffice it to say, the apes reign supreme.
I like that the filmmakers are covering new ground, honoring the legacy of what Reeves did before and not just flat-out rebooting. There really aren’t limits to where you can play around in the Apes timeline. Pick a spot, any spot, and you can craft a compelling narrative depending on how advanced the apes are, or how humanity is (or isn’t) progressing.
The motion capture technology has come such a long way. Much of that I imagine is from the previous trilogy’s Caesar, Andy Serkis. You can really see how expressive his eyes are in those performances, and that magic is on display here with new lead actor Owen Teague, who’s playing Caesar’s son, Cornelius.
That name itself is a nod to the original masterpiece. I really don’t throw that term around lightly. it’s so overused these days. However, the OG Planet of the Apes truly has one of the greatest twist endings in cinema. It also set the stage for Roddy McDowell to star in the sequel as Cornelius, and in two follow-up movies as Caesar.
Although we can clearly tell the apes reign supreme in Kingdom and the title implies as much, it appears that Cornelius is trying to help a human lady named Nova (Freya Allen). She was played by Linda Harrison in the original opposite Charlton Heston. I don’t really know what that plot point is about, or how that might create infighting amongst the apes. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.
Why do I say Apes is the most underrated franchise ever, by the way? Because other than Tim Burton’s attempted reboot from 2001, I’ve never had a bad time watching any of these films. They’re all interesting. Even Burton’s one was pretty good until the baffling end that the director himself couldn’t easily explain. In the ensuing years, though, I’ve watched this breakdown from ScreenCrush’s Ryan Arey and it totally changed/blew my mind.
Bottom line is, all the Apes movies dare to cover new territory. They go in wildly diverse directions genre-wise more often than not. Most franchises rely too often on nostalgia bait, familiar tropes, or blatant callbacks to iconic plot points. Apes is and always has been different that way. Kingdom seems to be no exception.
Where Kingdom looks to be setting itself apart is giving us a real idea of what it’s like when the apes have conquered the planet. In the post-war climate, will they cave to the same faults that caused the downfall of man? Have they evolved past a lust for power?
In a fascinating way…it seems like we’re starting down a path to where the timeline of this new series of films could meet up with the events depicted in the 1968 classic. I don’t know if these flicks will officially be acknowledged as being in the same singular canon of storytelling. The fact that such a possibility is on the table rocks.
But yeah, between how gorgeously-shot the cinematography appears to be, the lower status of humans trying to survive in a harrowing dystopia, and the perpetually improving authenticity of the mo-cap apes, I’m so hyped for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. Cool breakdown of the entire franchise below in case you’re interested in digging in deeper.